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"… the righteous will live by their faith" (Habakkuk 2:4, NRSV). Even before South Africa began to dismantle apartheid, Desmond Tutu did something very profound. Though he had no official platform or office, though he was without institutional power, he invited his opponents to join him. He treated them as colleagues who one day would work together as equals. His actions were prophetic and filled with faith in God’s redeeming work in our world. His actions reminded me of another story I heard recently, from the front lines of the gender debate within the church. A scholar working at an institution unsympathetic to biblical equality quietly shared his journey away from gender-hierarchy. He said that though he had grown up in a church that gave authority in the h... Read more
"Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father so we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4, NRSV). As Christians who are called to walk in newness of life, we oppose, rather than advance, the consequences of the fall. Most Christians I know eagerly resist death, pain in childbirth, and toiling against other thorns and thistles—all the results of sin. We are thankful for good medical care that prolongs our lives. Most women are also grateful for pain medicines used during delivery. And, the agricultural industry invests billions of dollars to lighten our labor in producing food. However, men’s inclination to rule over women—also a consequence of the fall, is... Read more
(Adapted from a paper given at the 2007 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society) My interest in women and missions of the 1800s is reinvigorated, of late, by a number of experiences I’ve had lecturing at Christian colleges and seminaries around the county. When invited to speak for chapel services, I make an effort to learn something about the school, particularly the achievements of the founders and their graduates. In doing so, I have discovered the vast number of women alumni, who were also leaders on the mission field in the United States and abroad. And, they had the full support of the school’s founders. As I include these findings when I lecture, I am often surprised at the responses I receive… some of these Christian colleges appear almost emba... Read more
Sometimes we hear things or see things or read things that we can't forget. Sometimes we wish desperately that we could forget them. Sometimes we're willing to give every ounce of who we are to keep on remembering. Sometimes it's a mixture of both. I just can't get it out of my mind - this passage in Proverbs 31 (verses 6-7) about poverty and injustice. It's the verse that says to let the poor drink beer so that they might forget their misery and anguish. It won't stop running through my mind that there are people so impoverished that Wisdom would say to let them drink so that they won't have to remember their misery! The amount of despair that is revealed in these verses makes my heart ache so much I wish I could forget it. And yet, this amount of very rea... Read more
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ—the logos of God—we rejoice in God’s promise to us given in Isaiah 55:10-13. That Scripture, faithfully preached and interpreted, will accomplish all God desires according to God’s own purposes. The fruitful return of Scripture, faithfully delivered, is a pledge we cling to at CBE. Promoting the biblical foundations of gift-based ministry is accompanied by God’s promise and therefore God’s power. We see this in so many ways here at CBE! As churches, denominations, and Christian organizations take time to study the teaching of Scripture on gender, the power of God leads hearts and minds to truth and to change. The Spirit of God is active as we read the text. Because of this, we encourage gro... Read more
Recently a CBE member sent me a note reminding me of the consequences of coming to the right conclusions regarding women’s service in the church. He said: When I stand before Jesus, if I were to learn that 'they' were right and 'we' were wrong, I’d much rather have to explain equipping and encouraging my sisters in Christ than be required to defend why so many never heard the gospel because I preserved a presumed purity of gender roles. Even writing that brings new meaning to gagging at gnats while swallowing camels. His words remind us that there are significant consequences resulting from the position we take on women’s kingdom-service. This is why CBE will host a symposium this summer on missions and gender in Toronto. We recognize the importance... Read more
The body is what is seen by sighted people, and maybe here lies a clue! Sight-impaired people have a distinct advantage in that they are not affected by what people look like, and even the expression on a face is lost to the blind person. I know that when I was marking correspondence lessons for overseas students it was a relief to know that my physical presence was not going to adversely affect their consideration of the Christian faith. Now, if we could only learn to look beyond the physical appearance of a person and get to know the heart it would solve a lot of issues including those of pornography, lust, objectification, etc. God chose to give us a human body for our limited time on earth, so it must be a good thing in itself. However, the body has been affected by sin just li... Read more
'If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty placed on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.' (Deuteronomy 24:5) This was actually the second instance of Scripture I noticed in my reading of Deuteronomy where allowance was made for the priority of marriage over the duties of a soldier (cf. Deuteronomy 20:7). But, what strikes me particularly about this verse is the latter half. In a completely patriarchal society, one would expect for the exhortation to be 'so that his wife can bring him happiness' - but instead, the opposite is being commanded. Why do you think this is the case? To me, it reveals that the idea of marriage being created for the enjoyment of... Read more
"Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'" (Matthew 20:25-28, TNIV). How many of us feel uneasy when we are told that men, rather than women, are called to be "servant leaders?" Perhaps we are confused by this notion—that men alone are to be "servant-leaders"—because it contains an important truth though it carries that truth only part of the way. What do I mean? Scripture speaks... Read more
How many of us come from traditions where we have been told that women cannot serve in positions of leadership because Jesus was male? And, as denominations consider where women may hold positions of service, inevitably the gender of Jesus becomes a consideration. Previous generations of Christians have also asked important questions about the gender of Jesus. Here is one example: Gregory of Nazianzus, who lived at the end of the fourth century stated to gar aprosleptom atherapeuton, which in English means, "What is not assumed is not redeemed." His words remind us that Christ came to represent all of humanity on the Cross. Thus, if we absolutize one aspect of Christ, such as his gender, ethnicity, or class, we run the risk of excluding people without those char... Read more